Convincing my traditional parents that marrying my boyfriend (as opposed to an arranged marriage) is not a "sin". Tried for many years; can you help me try more?
November 10, 2012 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Convincing my traditional parents that marrying my boyfriend (as opposed to an arranged marriage) is not a "sin". Tried for many years; can you help me try more? I will start with a little bit of my background. Please bear with me for the verbose description.

I am from a country where arranged marriages are quite common. And I am from a community in the-said country where non-arranged marriages are very rare. Almost all my first cousins had arranged marriages and typically met their to-be-spouses once/twice (with the presence of other relatives), before they said OK.

My parents were very progressive when raising me and my sibling. I am female and 30 years old. I had a great childhood. Education was important and I fared very well both inside school and at extra-curricular activies. There was a lot of quality family time growing up. We were instilled with great values (work really hard, go out of your way to help people, do nice things for people when you can, etc) and I was constantly encouraged to do anything I wanted to. I was a shy child and was often appreciated by my relatives and friends. I could see my parents were happy with me. Although they were not the type to appreciate me directly using words.

I came to the US to get my Master's degree and stayed on for a PhD. 4 years ago I told my parents I met someone I really like and would like to marry him. My boyfriend is from a different state and "community". Our mother tongues are different. (Though we're from the same country these two languages have no commonalities and cultures are very different too) My parents initial reaction was shock and they said that it was impossible to even imagine that I had fallen in love, let alone want to be married to someone of my choice. Their general view: We sent you to the US to study and how could you think of finding your own partner? So I think the background behind this is that, parents firmly believe that they are the ones who are experienced enough with the ways of the world to find a suitable partner for their children. Through many months of many-hour phones call, I tried to explain to them that this wasn't wrong and that i knew him well, he was a good guy and requested them to reconsider their decision. They responded by saying that I have sinned and that I would be betraying my ancestors by such a marriage. Basically they were trying to make me see that I had 'taken the wrong path'…and unfortunately that the "West" had made this normal for me. :( This went for a few months. Although I knew that my parents may not accept eagerly, I believed they would consider it, talk to him and see that he was a really nice person for their daughter to be with. But I was grossly mistaken. These few months were the most traumatic period for me and my boyfriend. It was for my parents too. During this time me and my boyfriend seriously considered moving apart - since we knew that there was no way we could be happy with my parents so unhappy. We tried this for sometime, but we got back together again because we just couldn't accept the fact that we would be giving up on such a wonderful relationship we had, for a "belief" my parents had. And we told ourselves that we're going to try our best to make my parents see that this wasn't wrong.

On and off over the last 2 years, we have had brief conversations about this. The tension underlies other conversations too. We have also tried to avoid the "marriage" topic because my academic committments have been very demanding and I just couldn't focus with all the blame and heated conversations we were continually having. But even when the conversations were on and off, when it did come up, it lead to many days of pain, bitterness and anger for everyone and included guilt for me. Guilt for me because (even though I know what I am asking for is not wrong), I know how much this pains them. Also in my country/community's context, having an unmarried daughter older than 25 yrs is almost a societal shame. This is extremely sad but true. Their argument has been that: it is so hard to make "marriages" work even within the same community when there is so much similarty in upbringing to bring two people together. And in arranged marriages, parents on both sides of the groom and daughter are so supportive and holding their backs for any sort of trouble. They've asked/told me…You don't know what it is going to be like. You're young, inexperienced and don't understand the workings of the world. You will be ridiculed by society. You and your children will not be able to fit in to either communities. (In fact I believe in what is completely contrary to this - I think our children would be positively influenced by the two diverse cultures). One of the things that has been hardest for me to come to terms with is that - my family was not at all traditional and conservative when growing up. We were trained to question everything around us. My father asked us not to follow tradition if we couldn't understand why. My parents both have college degrees. My father works in a multinational firm outside of my home country and meets people of many nationalities. I have spent a big part of my primary and middle school years in international communities. My mother is a homemaker. My mother was deeply religious but always gave me and my brother complete freedom in their choice with respect to religion. My dad was an atheist and so even dinner table conversation was quite a healthy dose of debate. This was in fact a part of my childhood I was really proud of and happy about. Even with respect to "community" where this is a loaded concept in my country, it was never a big deal - it was just a thing on paper we had to fill in on forms. I have always studied in multi-cultural schools (when we came back to my home country from abroad) and had a diverse set of friends. So, differences in religion, community etc was never a factor in my friendships (or in my head). But suddently after all these years, when it comes to marriage my parents seem to insist on the importance of language, community and state. For a long time I was quite upset with them (mixed with a lot of guilt), on these double standards in raising us and then when push comes to shove, they wanted to follow the what they consider is the "risk-free right" path. But after many months of introspection, reading and pondering, I came to some peace within and understood better where they are coming from and why these biases are so ingrained in them. And I have been able to compartmentalize this aspect of my life with them. We have had some happy conversations and we have met a few times. And I am in a state of mind where I respect them and love them at the same time. But when I do think of how much I have had to wait and am continuing to wait…to go ahead with my relationship - it leaves me angry and bitter.

Outside of all this, I have had the most understanding boyfriend. Thankfully he is aware of these deep-rooted biases and has been so patient and more supportive and helpful in this process than I could ever imagine. And fortunately my boyfriend's parents have supported us both whole-heartedly through all this. He values his family a lot too and wants us to both do our best to try to make it work with mine, before we decide we can't wait any more.

A lot of people in this situation would just go ahead and get married and stop worrying about their parents. But I don't want to do this just yet. I have a little more strength and hope left in me to try some more. I believe I just might be able to make my parents understand. I don't want to crush my parents more than they already are (unfortunately it is all in their own minds, while the so-called society that seem to care so much about, just goes on). For eg, they do worry that my family will be the "talk of the town" if people knew). I have shared my relationship status with very few people, out of respect to my parents. And it has been hard to keep a part of my life away from so many people in my adult life.

So here is my question to you all: Please help me reason out with my parents. How can I make them see that in the majority of the world, men and women choose their own partners and that it isn't wrong? If they think love-marriages as opposed to arranged marriages are a moral depravity, is there anything that can be done to make them see the truth? :( Any opinions, ideas, related comments, reading material, personal or second-hand experiences, anecdotes, historical references of how communities who moved from arranged to choose-your-own-partner style of marriage will be most welcome!!!

I have been a silent reader of AskMeFi for many, many months and have learnt so much. This is my first post. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

posted by alady to Human Relations (40 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Can you use traditional mechanisms to bring them around? For example, consult your local religous authority? Or have this person meet your boyfriends parents? I don't think you, the junior member of your family, can convince them. But if you can get a credible advocate who has structural authority - a priest/rabbi/brahman etc or a matchmaker or your grandparents or older brother of your father to advocate for you, that would help a lot. What do your boyfriends parents think? If they are favorable towards you, can they approach their local priest and have that person contact your parents local religious authority?
posted by zia at 3:11 PM on November 10, 2012 [14 favorites]

When you give them grand kids, they'll get over it.
posted by empath at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2012 [19 favorites]

Have your parents met your boyfriend? Have they visited you in your adopted country? I see plenty of reasons why this could backfire, but have you considered inviting them to visit so they can see that you live a happy, fulfilled life, and meet your boyfriend, who sounds like a lovely person? Once they feel like they are dealing with the lives of two individuals as opposed to a hypothetical partner, they might be able to think about the situation a little bit differently, maybe just enough differently.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:22 PM on November 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

I say this as someone coming out of the LGBT community with traditionally conservative Christian parents: If you put your life on hold until your parents approve of your behavior, even if they eventually come around, you are taking a giant risk with your own happiness, for people who have already proven that your happiness is not a very big priority. It's not that they specifically want you to be unhappy, it's just not a priority for them over other stuff. You're the one who has to prioritize your happiness.

Lots and lots of LGBT people try to get their parents to come around on the issue before they come out. Before they settle down with a partner. Whatever. But in reality, at least in my experience, the thing that tends to change minds is when the "morally depraved" thing actually exists in the life of the parents, and has none of the "morally depraved" consequences they were expecting. It's really hard to convince someone that it's all fine in theory. But once you're happily married and you have grandkids they want to see and etc, all those theoretical objections are much more likely to give way to, "Well, I still think this is a terrible idea, but... I guess you guys are okay." And eventually to even better things, in more than a few cases.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:25 PM on November 10, 2012 [86 favorites]

Your parents are not going to come around to the idea until it has already happened and is working out just fine. "The proof is in the pudding". By waiting for them, you are putting your relationship at risk (how long will he wait? Who will cave first?), and putting your life on hold. They see your waiting and trying to persuade them, as a sign you are unsure about it too. A sign that you want them to tell you it will work out, before you dare do it. They will not change their minds while you seem unsure. I know this sounds harsh and does not fit with your stated goal of persuading them before you do it, but at this point you say they are already worried about the shame of having an unmarried daughter over 25, so ask yourself what do you have to lose at this point? What if they never change their minds? What is the worst that could happen?
posted by Joh at 3:35 PM on November 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

Your parents don't respect your choice and say you're too young to understand the implications of your decisions.

You're 30 years old. With a doctorate. What exactly are they looking for before they trust your judgment?

They're forcing your hand to choose between him or them. You could try arguing that since you're too dang old to find a husband they should be happy you're not going to die a cat lady, but really there's nothing you can do to change their opinion of this relationship.

You're not in charge of your parents happiness. Only your own.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:37 PM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't know if you would find this helpful at all but I read a very enjoyable novel a few years ago about a woman facing a simliar conundrum (except she has an *American* fiance, even worse): The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi. It's basically a chicklit novel, with a happy ending, but I don't know, maybe it would give you some ideas.

I'm on the side of those who say that winning your parents over *before* your marriage is probably a losing proposition. Your parents are educated, relatively urbane people: intellectually, they already know that a "mixed" marriage is completely acceptable to many people all over the world. They just don't like to see it in their own family. (Also, is there a racism component to it? I don't know what the communities involved are and how they relate to each other, but sometimes arguments about "background" are rooted in plain old racism.)

I kind of think your two options are either to go ahead an get married without their approval (and based on your description I bet they would come around) OR wait until you are like 35 or 40 and they are SO DESPERATE for you to get married that they will approve of you marrying any random person off the street. But the first option seems more likely to be happy for you, so that's what I'd recommend.
posted by mskyle at 3:43 PM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I believe I just might be able to make my parents understand.

Suppose you have the very best, most rational, most enlightened arguments on your side--which, incidentally, you do--what stops your parents from saying, "That's all true, but it's not what we want"? Nothing. The "what they want" part may remain as true as ever, even if you get them to understand.

So, although it's not wrong to debate them about the facts regarding love marriages vs. arranged marriages, it's a distraction. Try not to take the bait. This all really boils down to you want X, and they want Y. And they're not going to get Y.

But there are probably a zillion small things besides Y that they do want and that you're willing to give: you're willing to listen to them; you're willing to consider their advice; you want them involved in your life, post-marriage; you want them involved in your kids' lives; etc. They may not have even considered these other things are in doubt if they don't go along with your love match.

I don't mean you should threaten them with exclusion from your future, but when they're not listening, you might point out that their judgments cast doubt on whether they have trust in you, respect for you, and the decency to handle disagreements in a way that is compatible with surviving those disagreements happily.

And when you seem to be getting through to them, leap for imagery where the marriage is a fait accompli, and paint pictures where they still get most of the things they want from their relationship with you. You can't make them want the whole package right now, but you might at least show them you *mostly* want the things they want--just not an arranged marriage.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:43 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a parent, what would make me accept this would be you going ahead and getting married or possibly even having a child. As long as you're not married they are going to hold out hope that they can influence you to the "best" course.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:54 PM on November 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

I agree with the people who are saying this is past any sort of point where it's up to you to "convince" your parents of anything. I think you're going to have to lay it all out for them, tell them what you and your boyfriend's plans are, and then let them decide how they want to react (while not letting it change your plans).

I have a friend who was in a situation very similar to yours. She finally sat down with her parents, said, "I love him and he loves me. We are moving in together and we will be getting married in the future. It is up to you to choose whether or not you would like to be part of our lives. We hope that you will, because we love you and want you to be part of your lives, but you need to understand that we are going to proceed with or without your approval."

Her parents quickly came around.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're already in love. The damage has been done. There is no path where you do what they want and have a perfect happy life.

Together, you can find a way that gives you a happy life and them a happy life, but it can't be a way that doesn't include your love. It's already happened.
posted by amtho at 3:59 PM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Marry the man you love. Your life is yours to live as you see fit. Imagine the anger and bitterness you feel today cultivated by several decades of resentment and regret. Say I do and don't look back.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:26 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you laid this out nicely in your question. It would be helpful to know where you are from, as some of the issues are very country- and culture- and religion-specific.

I married into a family from a different country. My wife and I were the first "love-marriage" in a community where there are many arranged marriages. (Actually, there was distant relative who had a love-marriage with another Indian, and it was scandalous, like for the first few years, he was pointed out at parties to me as "That's the guy who had a love-marriage.") My wife's family had permanently immigrated to the US many years earlier so the situation was different, but clearly we had to break through some barriers and some parental anxiety. After we got married, there were a flood of love-marriages.

What I've come to appreciate, is that the arranged marriage thing is borne out of very intense concern for the well being of the child. It is extremely important to know the proposed spouse's background, their family, and to know that there is a whole community invested in keeping this marriage together. I think in that light, it is easy for me to appreciate a parent's anxiety about marrying a person whom they have no way of knowing anything about, in fact a person who by definition carries a far different set of values than they do. These are the things you need to address with your parents to get them to accept things.

It's pretty hard that they live in another country. I mean, I think a first step would be for them to understand that people in the U.S. can fall in love and get married and stay together to love and support each other forever. Have you decided to live permanently in the US? Do they know this? That's an important distinction and it may be that they still think you are coming back to your home country and have a reputation to protect or different cultural norms to adhere than if they accepted that you are now a resident of the U.S. where they might be more prepared for you to adopt new customs.

It was very helpful for me to spend a lot of time with my wife's family before the marriage. It was even more helpful for my family to spend time with my wife's family. Once we started arranging our parents to get together, I could literally see my wife's family's demeanor change and they were far more relaxed around me. Like they could see where I was coming from, and they were reassured that my parents were still together and came from a strong religious background (even though it was different from theirs -- fortunately, Hindus seem to fairly tolerant), that they valued similar things like children and education and charity.

But the thing that probably helped the most, and god bless my wife I don't know how she did it, was that the future Mrs. Bartfast took a leading role in all of this, continuing to represent me to her parents and making it clear that this was her choice and she was willing to respect her parents concerns and work with them on this, but if they weren't going to go along with it, she was going to move across country and share an apartment in sin with this white guy. It would have been too easy for me to back down from the cultural pressure and that would have either doomed our relationship, or it would have doomed my wife's relationship with her family and either of these possibilities were absolutely unacceptable.

It helped that I had a couple of selling points, that her parents could boast to their family and friends, and I'll bet your partner has some as well. In my case, I am a doctor (for a future son-in-law in India, this is GOLD). The small town in southern India where my wife's family is from has a Catholic church and school; my family is very staunchly Catholic and my uncle is a priest and this was something they could totally wrap their heads around.

I don't think you should shrink away from your parents if at all possible. I can see how the advice to ignore your parents is really not at all practical. This would be a very last resort and would come with all kinds of long term negative consequences. When all was said and done, once her parents accepted me and the wedding went on, the rest of the family came right along. I have been treated like a son and a brother when visiting people's homes in India and this has been incredibly important. In fact, it has really helped hold our marriage together.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:26 PM on November 10, 2012 [21 favorites]

Oh yeah, and grand kids *do* change everything. Promise them grand kids.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:27 PM on November 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am from a Western Culture but for the past decade I have been surrounded by many people who found arranged marriages worked for them, and I think arranged marriages can be fantastic, so I am coming at this from the opposite side from you. I think too, a lot of the Western people that are telling you to just get married would not be as accepting of the alternate - if their own children came to them and insisted on an arranged marriage it would be many years before they saw it as an equal marriage to a love match.

They are not going to accept that you know what you are doing in arranging your own marriage so you need someone to arrange it for you. Find the most high-status supportive person on your soon-to-be-husband's side (depending on your home community the gender of this person may be important) and have this person meet with your family to "sell" your boyfriend to them. Your parents want to know that your husband is someone that has resources (a strong supportive family, a good education, excellent career prospects, status in the community) and similar values (strong connection to families/country of origin, similar views on social status, similar financial goals) to their own. Their "face" in the community is very important too and you can't disregard it. Even if you were planning on just a small wedding I would recommend you give them free reign over the whole wedding. This is where if the boyfriend's family is willing to bend to whatever traditions they have and finance them it would go a long way to reassuring your parents that the marriage will work - if they feel their desires for the wedding are respected they will reason their desires for the marriage (as being in your best interest) will also be respected. If your soon to be husband does not currently have a high-status job then he should be working towards an impressive title they can brag about. Tell him he is applying for the career of being your partner and he needs to brush up his C.V. Is it shallow? Yes. Will it work? Probably.

And just a tip, all parents, when they say "question everything and all traditions" don't actually mean for their children to question them or their traditions. Clearly they choose the best traditions/values and expect you to agree. That isn't unique to your culture. That is just something almost everyone does.
posted by saucysault at 4:37 PM on November 10, 2012 [11 favorites]

You mention that almost all your first cousins were in arranged marriages. If one (or some) of them are in a love marriage, you should go to them for advice since they know your family and might give some helpful perspective to you or to your parents.
posted by mismatched at 4:42 PM on November 10, 2012

I'm speaking as someone who grew up in India and is now engaged to a guy who is from a completely different country. I really feel for your situation. I don't have any direct personal experience as my parents have been incredibly cool with the whole thing, immediately seeing that this guy had exactly the character traits needed to make me happy and engaging with his family to ensure that things work out smoothly. I guess in some sense though, this is understandable, because when they married some 35-odd years ago, they married across lines of not just state, but also religion (my mom is from a Hindu family, and my dad from a Christian one). I think in the end they just decided to get married. My mom asked her parents for permission which was not difficult to get after they met my father.

My dad's family, on the other hand, was not happy. They didn't approve of him marrying into a different religion, and they also did not approve of him marrying before his elder sister, as this would make it more difficult for her to contract an alliance. My dad's parents attended the small registry wedding they had, but no one else from the family (neither of my dad's sisters, or his brother, or any of his many many relatives).

My mom says she just went with it and never brought this up with anyone in my dad's family. She decided to just let bygones be bygones and completely ignored the fact that when she joined the family they were not very accepting of her. The strategy yielded rich dividends because my grandparents thawed quite rapidly toward her. They moved to be nearer my parents (who were living in the same town as my maternal grandparents for job reasons). My paternal grandfather and mother formed a very good relationship based on mutual interests, so much so that when my mom wrote a book she dedicated it to him. Now everyone gets along really well and it would be hard to imagine that there was ever any conflict there. Particularly after I was born, everyone was so involved in doting on me (first grandchild on both sides), that it would have been extremely hard to maintain any sort of conflict.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, finish up your PhD and then just present your decision to your parents as a fait accompli. Tell them that you love them but that you have found the person you want to marry. Then just go ahead and get married! Invite everyone you can, and let them come or not and let the chips fall as they may. If it has to be a registry wedding, so be it! My parents had a registry wedding and have had an extremely blissful married life. Like it or not, Indian society is changing, and you will hardly be the first love marriage in their social circle.

You know I said above that I have no direct personal experience to draw upon, but I did think of something. I currently live with my fiance, and this is definitely something my parents frown upon. With my previous boyfriend (who my parents did not approve of, but not because of his nationality) I lived with him after a year or so. This drove my parents completely apoplectic and I pretended to move out after a month or so. Except I really didn't -- I just rented a tiny studio apartment (which used up money I could have otherwise saved) and pretended to live there while I lived with my boyfriend. It was horrible! I felt so consumed by the lying and going behind my parents' back and used so much energy just managing this double life. With this boyfriend, once we decided to move in together, I thought about doing the whole lying thing again. Luckily my boyfriend would have none of it and insisted that we completely above ground with my parents. And honestly, it's been fine! We just told them what we planned to do and went ahead and did it. My parents keep urging me to be absolutely quiet about the fact that I'm living with my fiance before marriage and I get to be open with my parents about some pretty important things going on in my life! So opinions can change and people will come around.

Even my mom's attitude towards gay people and gay marriage has notably softened within the past 5 years -- from oh my god, it's so unnatural to I have friends' sons who are gay to being gay is ok if it's not my child to I guess being gay is fine but I don't think they should marry and have kids to ok marriage is fine but no kids. I'm sure the no kids thing will eventually go away as well. All the arguing in the world is no substitute for direct personal experience. Abstract arguments are one thing, but when they are confronted with a couple who had a love marriage and are obviously stable and happy as well as happy grandkids, they would have to be extremely hardhearted (and it doesn't sound like they are) to not change their tune. Don't argue, take charge of your life and trust that they will come around.
posted by peacheater at 5:12 PM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

The fact that you aren't married yet is a win for them. They are manipulating you and you are letting them. As long as you keep putting off the marriage by trying to persuade them you are right, they continue to be on the winning side of the argument.

You can only do what you want and wait for them to come around (or not).
posted by murfed13 at 5:27 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you met your boyfriend's family? How do they feel about the possibility of you becoming their daughter-in-law? Do they disapprove of your possible marriage as much as your parents? Do both sets of parents speak a common second language, like English? Are there major religious differences?

Where are you hoping to live after you get married? In your parents' community? In his parents' community? In another country? It sounds like your parents have the resources to come visit if you settle in another country. Do his?

I'm the mother of 3 grown sons, two of them have children, and all of my sons have wonderful partners. The fact that all three eventually chose partners whose families are culturally similar to mine has made it easy for me. But if they had ended up with partners from very different backgrounds I would have done whatever was necessary to get along with their partners' families, especially after I got to know the three lovely women with whom my sons share their lives.

If you do decide to follow your heart, and if your families don't come around to approving the marriage -although I agree with everyone who says they will once there are grandchildren- know that you will be able to create your own extended family of choice.
posted by mareli at 5:32 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

It will be hard for most mefites to get this because these cultural differences that look so silly to folks in our culture are anything but in your home culture. I am guessing that your culture has more of an emphasis on the group rather than the individual, with the actions of one group member reflecting on all the members, not just the one.

As to persuading your have already mentioned the "scandal" of an unmarried daughter your age....perhaps you can tell them that they need to contact his folks and "arrange" this love match because you are going to marry him regardless, and at least this way they can "save face." If that doesn't work I don't know what to tell you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:55 PM on November 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. Each comment is precious! It's helping me think much better and giving me so many ideas to ponder about.

To answer some of the questions being asked…

I am a Hindu from South India. My boyfriend is also a Hindu from Eastern India.

@zia: Thanks for the idea. I tried to talk to a maternal uncle a couple of years ago, who called "love" the 'crazies' and wished I could get out of it and that it was all going to be very difficult otherwise. But I do know of a paternal uncle, whom my father values a lot. And I should give this another shot and talk to him. Thanks for reminding me about this route…I had given up after that first try. None of my relatives really know at this point.

@foxy_hedgehog: You're so right… my boyfriend is still hypothetical in their mind and that isn't helping. My conviction in the relationship and strength of emotion does stem from everything I know about him. And unfortunately they don't have that. Me and my boyfriend are in different states in the US, so when they did visit 3 years ago, we didn't think to use that opportunity. Or it was too early/raw in the process of "trying" to convince them.

@gracedissolved: You bring it out well…I need to come to terms with the fact that this is the best I can expect: "Well, I still think this is a terrible idea, but... I guess you guys are okay.

@Monsieur Caution: You hit the nail on the head…describing what was really happening with all my 'debates' with them. "So, although it's not wrong to debate them about the facts regarding love marriages vs. arranged marriages, it's a distraction. Try not to take the bait." Every few weeks when I would 'up' my spirits and begin a discussion, I can now recall how it would all flow. They would say, yes, each of your points sounds OK and appears alright. But this is not what we could accept. Added to this would be that your wisdom is from the 'books', ours is from real life experience.

@the young rope rider! "As long as you're not married they are going to hold out hope that they can influence you to the "best" course."
Exactly how they're seeing it. They're vehemently hoping that I can soon see the right path. :(

@Slarty Bartfast: I couldn't have explained it better. Thanks! "What I've come to appreciate, is that the arranged marriage thing is borne out of very intense concern for the well being of the child. It is extremely important to know the proposed spouse's background, their family, and to know that there is a whole community invested in keeping this marriage together."
What's to my disadvantage here is that they don't want to talk or hear about my boyfriend. And the vibes I get when I initiate some sharing of facts is hard to bear. And hence I don't go further. And strangely, there is so much about my boyfriend (in terms of his values), that my father would downright adore - if only he were willing to listen.
Some of the things you say really resonate: "it would have doomed my wife's relationship with her family and either of these possibilities were absolutely unacceptable." "I don't think you should shrink away from your parents if at all possible. I can see how the advice to ignore your parents is really not at all practical."

You are right. For my state of well-being, the role I play as a daughter is an integral part. I could and may soon have to decide that I will walk from them, but I would have to retrain myself to be a different person. (I don't yet know how or whether I could do that) I would have to harden up - it would be impossible to think, imagine and reflect upon any of my past. But I understand that I have to take a stance and can't expect to have it all.

@saucysault: Excellent points on the pro-arranged perspective. The idea about getting someone from my boyfriend's side to talk is a really good one. We're going wrack our brains on finding this person. And reign over the wedding you say - I hadn't thought of this, but I can see how that could be so helpful and we'll make sure when the day comes.

@mismatched: Only one of my cousins had a love-marriage. She is 25 and got married a few months ago. My parents were an integral part of this wedding and helped in many ways to get this big Indian wedding in to fruition. But from what I see they did this as part of their role in the extended family and because it was their 'duty' to their sibling's family, not because they approved of this is any way. They did accept and were pleasant from what I hear.

@peacheater: Thanks much for the detailed personal experience. What a lovely story your parents have! I adore your mother's strategy. It must have been difficult but I am so glad to hear it paid off well and that her relationship with your grandparents took such a wonderful turn. And things are coming around with the living-in for you too. I guess the initial rite-of-passage is hard…but I must pass through it to get to the other side.

@mareli: I haven't met my boyfriend's parents but I communicate with his mother through phone and email. She is a lovely woman and likes and cares a lot for me. She indulges me with gifts and is hoping my parents turn around soon too. Language might be a barrier from my parents side. Though his parents can communicate easily in English, my father uses English only for business. My mother can manage with some basic English. But she definitely could not convey her feelings with it. And she is a really expressive person and people (including me) love to talk to her for her wonderful ways with sharing ideas, thoughts and helping people put things in perpective. Initially me and my boyfriend were quite enthusiastic about learning each other's languages and even now this is something that definitely plan to do. However some of the negativity (just feeling-down with a lot of drama that keeps happening) that is keeping us from more-than-sporadically work on this goal. We'll keep at this.
Regarding travel to meet each other's families: one of the things that got my boyfriend and myself together was the fact that we want to go back to our home country. And as we've moved further into our careers, this hasn't faded one bit. This would be a strong selling point for my parents, only if they would hear me out.

To those of you telling me I must trust my heart, go ahead and believe my relationship with my parents will (or could) come around...thank you. Though it seems like I couldn't do it...I needed to hear it. I will let it sink in.

And the grandkids! Am so glad you're all n'thing it. I love kids so that definitely is a winning strategy here.
posted by alady at 6:56 PM on November 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

You say you've talked to your parents, but have you ever put things into writing?

Perhaps you could write them, detailing what the best attributes of your fiance are as well as listing his professional accomplishments and what degree(s) he will be finishing. Inform them that you and he will be returning to practice your professions in your home countries, and mention what motivates the both of you. State that rather returning as an 'older' spinster, you would be returning as an adult married woman. Let them know your plans for children with some type of timeline--for example: six months after we return, we'll be starting our new family. The final ace in the hole is to explain how welcoming his parents and family have been to you and how you have been accepted by them and feel close to them. You can explain that you know they can have the kindness and generosity to welcome your sweetie as warmly as you have been welcomed, and that you want your husband and children to always be welcome in their home and hearts. Make this a loving handwritten letter, and repeat that you will always be their beloved daughter, and that you are grateful for what they have done for you, including teaching you to follow your beliefs.

Two things stand out for me though in your comments. The first is that you have a bit of a long-distance relationship. If this is true, you need to spend more time together and be very, very sure that you're both on the same page. You need to talk about religion, children, and money, as well as what roles you will each play in the marriage. You might think you're both in agreement about roles, but the way you were raised (or the examples your parents set) can be highly influential, whether you want them or not!

The other thing I would suggest to do before you write this letter is meet his parents and actually spend some time with them.

I wish you luck, joy, and love.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:49 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, I myself am not exactly from a culture where arranged marriages are still common. But I'm...not that far removed from it, shall we say, and still spend time with relatives who are constantly very concerned about not-family-pushed-marriages.

I strongly agree with those who say that you need to not fight the love-match vs arranged-marriage thing. It is a distractor. You do not need your parents to tear down their feelings about arranged marriages in order to accept your love match.

What I think might be your best bet here is to bring as many of the positive things that they would expect from an arranged marriage into your own relationship, without rubbing their faces in how untraditional your relationship is. So:

- Absolutely have one of your older relatives talk to your parents about this idea, if you think they would be sympathetic.

- Where do your prospective fiance's parents stand in all this? Would they be willing to approach your own parents, either by email, letter, or phone call? "I understand you have a very educated and beautiful daughter, who my own son already gets along with very well. My son has these sterling qualities, that would be of value for any parents looking to marry a daughter well. I am very interested in the possibility of a marriage between them, what do you think?"

- Stop talking about how much you love him. It is like making fish noises to people who think that love is not the foundation of a good marriage. Instead talk about things that they may understand better - how much you respect him, how much you admire him, how much others admire him. How much you like his family and would like to be a part of his family. (Have you met his mother? Could you talk about how excited you would be to marry into that family?) Talk about how religiously devoted he is. Talk about any incidents where you have seen that he might make a good father. But for all that is holy, do not talk about love. Love is a madness. A madness I happen to endorse, but I'm saying, from this perspective, it seems like a chaotic force that overrides good sense. You want to show them you are still their wise daughter.

Oh, and please post followups, whichever way you choose!
posted by corb at 8:10 PM on November 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

So, you are 30 years old. It is 2012 and you don't want to marry without everyone playing Happy Families. Listen.

I was almost 32 when I gave up the fight against the pressure to get married. I didn't have a boyfriend/fiance so there wasn't even a strong enough argument against arranging a marriage. I said WTF and threw a dart at the shortlist my poor, long suffering father sent me. Yes of course the whole extended family thought he wasn't doing his job, that was the only driver for the decision. His "face" in society, right?

At 32 I flew across the world to live in Pittsburgh with a man I'd met 4 days before he arrived for the engagement and then the wedding. He was 38 and had never been married. He turned out to be a raving lunatic with sever mental issues, alcoholism, substance abuse and was extremely abusive. His family was dysfunctional and had hidden facts and his background of trouble with the police et al because everyone wanted everyone to get married, right?

It took me more than 10 years to regain my equilibrium. We won't go into what intangibles I've forever lost.

Given that in the arranged marriage culture, women are married off around 23-24 and men by the time they are "settled" in a job i.e. 28-30, what are the odds that at your age they will find you a suitable boy? You are also overeducated with your PhD.

If your community is so conservative, what are the odds that the men who are single and qualified and your age group i.e. the 4-6 year gap preferred - that is, men who are 35 or older are SANE? or NORMAL?

Sure my parents wanted me to go back to him and what not. And yes, I didn't return home for 5 years after the divorce ki khandaan ka naak kaat jayega etc

Is it worth it?

Get real and get married.

Nobody has to live your life but you. If you're an educated independent adult with the capacity to take rational decisions and if you say you were brought up to be all that you could be you're wasting your time breaking your head over the emotional blackmail that arranged marriage cultures will pull on you.

OMG he is from a different community, WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY?

People will say what people will say. You're already too old and educated and spoilt by having been allowed to go to the US. Its too late to save your reputation or theirs. This entire exercise is a waste of time. The world has changed.

Decide who lives your life for you and who makes decisions in your choices.

on preview, You said:

You are right. For my state of well-being, the role I play as a daughter is an integral part. I could and may soon have to decide that I will walk from them, but I would have to retrain myself to be a different person. (I don't yet know how or whether I could do that) I would have to harden up - it would be impossible to think, imagine and reflect upon any of my past. But I understand that I have to take a stance and can't expect to have it all.

How will it harden you if they pick someone like the good Iyengar boy who left me with a legacy that included verbal, emotional, physical abuse, debts, and a sprinkle of post traumatic stress disorder?

Ps. I grew up as an expat as well in international schools. Indian emotional blackmail comes from society and what will people say. Will that control your life's choices?
posted by infini at 11:59 PM on November 10, 2012 [11 favorites]

They responded by saying that I have sinned and that I would be betraying my ancestors by such a marriage.

Which melodrama is this dialogue from pray tell? Will the priest pull a better match out of the hat with a horoscope match? Is this what you educated yourself for in this century? Do you consider yourself an intelligent adult capable of taking decisions for your life or are you ready to put the pallu over your face the minute you graduate and sprawl full length on the floor at the feet of all concerned?

Are you from the Iyer/Iyengar community? Let me talk some more about my former in Laws. Did I mention my mother in law burnt my hand on a grill?
posted by infini at 12:10 AM on November 11, 2012

Fwiw, I am today back in the bosom of the family and completely respected, restored and adulated. Why? Because subsequent to the tamasha I picked up the pieces and built a life.

But it should not have to be that way for the girl child...

How will things change if each and every one of us backslide and never stand up for the individuals that we are first and foremost before being the daughters and wives and sisters and cousins and bahus and whatnot?

They say the biggest enemies of women are other women. No, the biggest enemy is our self if we are unable to stand against the forces of our ancestors and our clans and communities and the patriarchal society we were born into simply in order to have love in our life.


/yes, taking a walk.
posted by infini at 12:28 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Their argument has been that: it is so hard to make "marriages" work even within the same community when there is so much similarty in upbringing to bring two people together. And in arranged marriages, parents on both sides of the groom and daughter are so supportive and holding their backs for any sort of trouble. They've asked/told me…You don't know what it is going to be like. You're young, inexperienced and don't understand the workings of the world. You will be ridiculed by society. You and your children will not be able to fit in to either communities. (In fact I believe in what is completely contrary to this - I think our children would be positively influenced by the two diverse cultures).

If this, rather than betraying your ancestors, is their real concern - that you would find yourself ostracized, lacking support, and unable to bring up your children well - then I think the most realistic argument is that in the end it is the support of the couple's own parents that is most important, and that if their support is strong enough and they back you firmly enough, then at least a good segment of their social circle will back you too. In other words, that their prophecies are self-fulfilling, that it is to a great extent their own approach that will determine how well your marriage is treated, and that if they have the strength to stand up for you against others and give as much support to your marriage as they would to an arranged one then what worries them most will not harm you.

If, on the other hand, they are worried about these things because they believe people would be right to shun you, because marrying outside of your culture is wrong regardless of any practical outcome, then I don't know that this would help.
posted by trig at 12:39 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @BlueHorse: No I haven't written to them outside of email. Any of my emails about this topic get ignored and never even acknowledged during conversation - until I prod and ask for a response. But the first way, ~4 years ago, in which my boyfriend communicated with them, was through a many-page handwritten letter couriered to them. He explained to them who he was, why we wanted to be together and how much we want their support. I like some of the things you've suggested - it's been in my mind but I have never conveyed it to them. I will write a letter since I have so much I have to share and am unable to do so through a conversation.
My relationship with my boyfriend has been LDR for 3 years. But we've been together in the same place for ~5 years before that - some of that as really close friends and then in a relationship.
I may not be able to visit my his parents since they are in a 4th country (outside of US, India and my parent's country of stay) because of the visa, time and travel involved. "Luck, joy and love"; Thank you!

@corb: "Not tearing down their feeling" and "rubbing it in" - I really hope I haven't been doing that while bringing out the postives of a love-match. But from all the responses, I shouldn't be espousing the benefits of *a* love-match, and should instead be simply talking about the positves of my chosen relationship. It's a simpler and fairer argument to make. Regarding asking my prospective fiance's (love this term!) parents to write…I don't feel right requesting them to do this. I am terribly hurt when my parents ignore my mails. I don't want to put any possible hurt or bitterness in to them if I can in any way avoid it. I agree to love-madness perspective. In the south-indian context, 'love' is everywhere - on the bill boards, in almost every TV sitcom, in almost every movie, etc. Though people will happily take it all in - in hushed tones many adults I know refer to it as an evil that is invading the youth. You've worded it nicely: "Love is not the foundation of a good marriage" (in my parent's view). And my arguments have always been that love *is*. This is a great hint! I can see what's missing in my case. Even if this new persepective may not change their mind, I think I will be doing my part better in reassuring them. Thanks! (And I will post follow ups)

@infini: I feel like you're a sister, asking me to get my game straight. Thanks so much. I am definitely not going in for an arranged marriage. My decisions at this point are go ahead and get married to my boyfriend or wait more for my parents approval. But in their case for me: they do have 32/34 yr old doctor/lawyer 'packages' all set and waiting. And they think there is only my own mind to set, for my happily-ever-after story. They continue to hope and pray for this change. I am not from the Iyer/Iyengar community. In fact, my community is 'lower down in the ladder (by many rungs)' from my prospective fiance's. This according to them is more reason to stay in your own community - where you will be respected.
I think your counter to my point rings so very true, "we are individuals first and then daughters, wives, sisters,…" Thanks a lot for sharing your story. Your spirit inspires me.

@trig: The vicious self-fulfilling prophecy - exactly! The relatives will "talk" if they see my parents weak at any point. And its because relatives are "competitive", they seem to want to one-up you. And here's their case, finally. Y'all let your *girl* leave the country and do a PhD! Serves you right.
When I try to explain to them that people (including relatives) who attack you like this (in other occassions), aren't people you should care about. They think it's my individualistic education that is talking - not the person who values society and understands its importance. And they doubt/question their own actions in "allowing" me this education and wonder perhaps if they should have been like the relatives and not given me choices at ages 21/22.
I wish I could explain this self-fulfilling prophecy idea to them in my native language. I can speak and have lengthy conversations in my native tongue. But I really do 'think and feel' in English and don't have sufficient vocabulary in my native tongue (Tamil). "…they are worried about these things because they believe people would be right to shun you, because marrying outside of your culture is wrong regardless of any practical outcome,…" Yes, this is very possible and downright scary.

posted by alady at 7:16 AM on November 11, 2012

They continue to hope and pray for this change. I am not from the Iyer/Iyengar community. In fact, my community is 'lower down in the ladder (by many rungs)' from my prospective fiance's. This according to them is more reason to stay in your own community - where you will be respected.

Then let me be even more blunt. They are concerned that you will not be accepted by his family and/or that you are marrying above your caste. Again, let us remember Gandhi here for a moment no?

I am not even South Indian nor a Brahmin... but because of my age/qualifications/work experience/"imported" upbringing and the paucity of single men in the age group, the short list was mixed.

His family never let me forget I was a bania.

What for you want all this?

But we've been together in the same place for ~5 years before that - some of that as really close friends and then in a relationship.

And how long will you wait for the miracle?

But I really do 'think and feel' in English and don't have sufficient vocabulary in my native tongue (Tamil).

See, this is why it won't work with the arranged. I will give you another argument to try with them for one last time in the next comment
posted by infini at 7:28 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You grew up as a global nomad. Your perspective, worldview and attitudes have been shaped from childhood through your experiences abroad, through international schools and through travel and exposure.

Your parent's Ideal Package would have grown up in India.

They may not realize this but already you have become ineligible to fit in with the man's worldview or perspective. He may even have issues about you, your competence, your English, your education and your travel.

Believe me, been there done that. And this gap in upbringing/exposure is vaster than you may imagine. Better you marry someone who knows you for past 5 some years than some stranger who may not ever be able to cross the chasm.

Why is this a big deal?

Because there's a great likelihood of resentment in the man against your perceived advantages and/or "superiority". Even if he's settled abroad, he doesn't think in English.

Talk to your mom about this aspect. Let her try to talk to your father. Don't go direct to email or your dad. His face is involved.
posted by infini at 7:34 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Interesting, I am also a non-Brahmin Tamil girl (well from my mom's side at least).

I have to second infini above. These "doctor-lawyer packages" your parents are talking about are simply not going to work out. As you say you think in English, not Tamil. I don't think any of us completely realizes what happens when we leave our home and go live in another country for so long. Once you've tasted independent living it's pretty much impossible to go back and become a traditional wife to some doctor/lawyer. Whether your parents like it or not that boat has sailed and you are not going to be a good fit for each other. Honestly I'm a bit surprised that your parents are putting up so much of a fuss. In my engineering college class from Chennai, filled with lots of girls from traditional families, many of them married their classmates or had "love marriages" of one sort or the other either immediately after college or after living in the US or Europe for graduate school. Your parents should think themselves fortunate that the problem of getting you "married off" has been solved so neatly for them.

I think the biggest thing that you need to convey to them is how accepting and welcoming the boy's family is of you. Like you said, your community is "lower down the ladder" from the boy's community. They may be under the impression that his parents will oppose the marriage and that there will be some sort of scandal or that they will lose face in some way. I know you don't want to ask your boyfriend's parents to talk to your parents for fear that they will be rude to them, but I think that showing your parents that the family you want to marry into is accepting of you and will be friendly in-laws will go a long way.

Finally, I think the time has come for you to take a more active role in getting this sorted out. Don't wait for your parents to bring up things you write in your emails. Impress upon them the good qualities of this guy -- don't go the route of talking about love. Even with my pretty liberal parents I don't talk about how much in love with my boyfriend I am. I am, but I understand how they feel that is to some degree irrelevant (I think I agree with them too to a large degree). It's more important that we are compatible, have shared values and a vision for how we will live in the future, have already shown that we are capable of living harmoniously together and that we will be ultimately good partners in life. I sympathize with your difficulties with Tamil -- I feel the same way when talking to my maternal grandmother -- but try to get your point across in this specific case, rather than about the abstract idea of love marriage vs. arranged marriage. You might never get them to agree that love marriage is a good idea for all people, but you might get them to agree that this particular love marriage is a good idea. All the best!
posted by peacheater at 8:27 AM on November 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Finally, I think the time has come for you to take a more active role in getting this sorted out. . .Impress upon them the good qualities of this guy -- don't go the route of talking about love.

You know the drill. Make up his biodata upto and including the tata who was in BHEL or some such and send it across as a proper package. Job, salary, qualifications, his family, the works - what the heck, get his horoscope done up too. Don't send his parents, ask him to find some suitable well placed and sympathetic elder to go between. Turn the tables on them.

I'm intrigued to note just how much my dialect changed in these comments.
posted by infini at 10:24 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nthing the following: there are positives to arranged marriages which are what your parents fear you missing out on, and these generally revolve around the match being objectively good and not merely hormone-driven. If you want to try to bring your parents on-side, you will need to:
- show them that your partner is an objectively acceptable person (virtues/education/work ethic etc.)
- show them that your partner would be a good prospect for a permanent relationship even if you weren't in love, i.e. that you have really thought about potential problems arising from your different backgrounds and that you know how to deal with them
- show them that you marrying someone from a different background does not mean you abandoning your parents' culture (which they undoubtedly fear) or them (which they certainly fear)
- be clear that you are doing this any way, because it is your choice, but that you will listen to any fair suggestions and validate their concerns and feelings
- accept yourself that they may not be totally comfortable with the idea for several years, if ever, and that this is their problem
posted by sarahkeebs at 12:59 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you're probably making the pain greater for everyone by spinning it out and allowing it to appear as if the matter is open for debate. There are many situations in which the fear of how terrible something will be is a lot harder to live with than the thing itself.

It's often easier for people to come to acceptance of a situation they can't alter any more than you or they would imagine.

In your situation it seems a bit trite to point you to a TED video, but this one discussing the concept of a "psychological immune system" is illuminating on how that works.

In a Hindu context, if that's what we're talking about, when something unwanted happens, people will often afterwards go to: "This too was meant, it is God's will, and ultimately for the best."

Some things that might nonetheless help...

- Have some person your parents trust meet and size up your partner. That kind of endorsement counts for a lot. Maybe a sibling if you have one. (I've been that sibling, though the situation was not quite the same as yours, but fraught enough nonetheless.)

- Take whatever steps you need to make the thing more palatable. Would it help if you had a traditional ceremony? Alternately, would it help if you kept the marriage low profile to ease fears about how the community will see it?

- Try saying something like: "You raised me to be a good person. You know I'm a good person. Can't you believe that my choice would be a good one? Won't you at least meet the man and see how good a man he is?"

I don't think there can be any guarantees that they will come around eventually, but there is a very good chance they will, and you can maximize that chance by the way you handle this.

FWIW, I've seen a bunch of similar situations, albeit not quite so extreme, ultimately turn out happily for all concerned.
posted by philipy at 1:09 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please, listen to infini and peacheater. Best of luck. You have to be yourself, anything else will hurt you more than you know. And really, the first comment about grandchildren seems flippant but is very true.

Anecdotally I've heard of so much unhappiness arising from arranged marriages, as well as serious health issues arising from variations such as cousin marriage my opinion you need to challenge your parents on this.

The myth of the Virtuous Woman is compelling and seductive. Please think about how it may be distorting your thinking and reactions - in a way it's a form of narcissism, a denial of intellect and self-determination in order to garner a comforting approval. It's hard to be an autonomous person, it's full of risk; when you do what you're told you are absolved of responsibility for how things turn out. And sometimes immigrants hold faster to outdated ideas for a sense of security than people do in the original, dynamic culture.

You know how you feel and what you want to do. Good luck, I'm sending you my best wishes on resolving this. Trust yourself.
posted by glasseyes at 3:27 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thank you for this question btw I hope we have been able to help you and look forward to hearing about what happens. I just wanted to say that it helped me a lot as well, to be able to put something in the remote past (1997) finally into some perspective and forgive myself.
posted by infini at 8:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

More about the grandkids: my parents got married in spite of his family's extreme opposition. Their opposition was primarily due to religion. I was born two years after my parents got married. I was not the first grandchild, but I was the only one who lived in the same city as my paternal grandparents. I, in my cute babyness, apparently melted their resistance and they became devoted to me and my subsequent sibs. They never totally accepted my mom, but they did become close with her mother and grandmother, in spite of major cultural/religious differences.
posted by mareli at 5:33 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much all! This has helped me immensely. I haven't taken a decision as yet - but I feel much better prepared. I know of atleast a few concrete steps that I am definitely going to take in the next couple of weeks. You've given me so many perspectives to consider and just mulling over all of it and realizing it - has made me feel so much calmer. And calmer - that I may not be able to have the 'perfect' conditions but yet I will go on (with marrying my prospective fiance) and it will be ok.

I have read each of your comments many, many times over the last few days. And I am so touched. And I am deeply thankful for all the thought cycles, emotion and experience you've shared for me. I am truly indebted.

Regarding waiting or going ahead right away or playing a more active role - @philipy, @infini, @peacheater, you make excellent points. The wait is definitely painful for my parents too - especially since there is no debate on my decision and my wait is unintentionally making it seem like there is. And the wait and trying to convince them has affected every part of my life too.

You've made me feel so cared for in a way I couldn't have imagined. Thank you.
posted by alady at 7:59 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

*throws flower petals and puffed rice*
posted by infini at 9:45 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I want to suggest that watching your parents contort themselves, their choices, values, and even their happiness, to pander to people whom you know are not worthy of that kind of obeissance, must be painful to you. The prospect that you might be able to convince them, to make them come around, to free them, is a very sweet and loving hope for them.

One of the hardest things to accept, even coming from a culture that in some ways is very far from yours (although in some ways I think close than it appears), is that parents can be wrong and stay wrong, and suffer because of that, and there is nothing you can do as their child to change them. Somehow it just feels like the whole universe will be more in order if you can only get them to come around that *you* are right, because the possibility of them being wrong and your being right is just destabilizing and anxiety-provoking.

I wonder whether if you are able to let go of the idea that it is possible, or even desirable, for you to protect your parents from the consequences of their values, including their suffering from your choices at the hands of 'friends,' you might find it easier to both really love and respect them as they are and to make your own choices.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:33 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

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